When US drones or unmanned aerial vehicles navigate through various geographies of the world, they have Bangalore-based Serial Innovations to thank for helping them send live video feeds smoothly. This technology startup has developed products that helps stabilise video feeds coming from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
Serial Innovations founder and CEO Arvind Lakshmikumar said they developed these systems for Europe's biggest defence company, which in turn sold them to the US Army. However, for 35-year-old Lakshmikumar, the main mission is to build visual sensing systems which sense, analyse and control complex environments for Indian defence.
"Our imaging systems are 40-50% cheaper compared to the products imported from Israel, US and Europe," said Lakshmikumar, a PhD in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University of USA. Their products include night vision goggles and smart thermal cameras. With annual revenues of around Rs 10 core, 20 employees and 15 pending patents, the firm's clients include the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Mahindra Satyam as well as the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency of the US.
It has deployed its intelligent cameras for 'Daksh' , an unmanned robot that can scan and defuse bombs. These systems are also being fixed on India's upgraded version of Arjun tanks. "They are providing us very niche vision technologies," said DRDO scientist Alok Mukherjee, who heads the Robotics Group at Pune-based R&DE (Engineers) laboratory. Lakshmikumar's US customers said that breaking into the US defence market is tough, but the quality of their products can bring that day closer.
"With their specialised cameras and image processing software, I can confidently enter bids that would have been impossible before," said Frank J Frysiek , president and CEO at Potomac River Group, a defence contractor that serves high-profile US government departments. "Serial Innovations is one of few non-US technology companies that has developed night vision systems," said Ronald L Bauer, director for business development at Sparton Electronics, a US-based defence contractor.
Mumbai Angels , a group of early-stage investors, injected Rs 2.2 crore in Serial Innovations this year. "They are doing lot of innovations and have a clear business strategy. Unlike being a copy cat firm, they have already built intellectual property," said Sasha Mirchandani, managing partner at Kae Capital and co-founder of Mumbai Angels. The Indian video surveillance and security for infrastructures security market is growing at 20-30% annually.
As per an Assocham report, the security industry should reach Rs 50,000 crore this year. Before becoming an entrepreneur, Lakshmikumar used to work at companies such as Intelligent Automation and Honeywell in the US. There, he built various imaging technologies for major defence contractors such as Raytheon and Lockheed Martin . These technologies were then used by the US defence and space agency NASA.
"It was a lucrative job, but I was not satisfied, I wanted to come back," said Lakshmikumar, who relo cated to India in 2003 to head the India operations of the US-based Sarnoff Corporation . However, soon Lakshmi kumar's home-coming dreams be came a hard struggle for survival. Sarnoff had to wind up its India oper ations due to technology transfer is sues, as it was a direct source of imag ing systems and cameras to the US defence. Lakshmikumar bought out 95% of the subsidiary along with his friend and partner Tim Mitchell.